2018 – A Retrospective

2018 has been eventful, to say the least. Now I’m composing full time, so much has happened. It was a year of firsts: first totally electronic compositions, my first festival, first major commission, and a master’s degree just to name a few! It hasn’t always been easy; files have been lost, Sibelius has crashed too many times, many sketches have been abandoned, and all too often I’ve stared at a blank page and not known what to do. But overall, it’s been pretty great!

A Brand New Sound

Electronic composition has always seemed a bit scary to me, but 2018 was definitely a year of experimentation so why not give it a go! This resulted in three new pieces (Something is Out There, Reflective Pools, and Drive Museum) all created using only electronics. Even better than this, Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd – National Museum Cardiff used Reflective Pools in two of their videos!

Oxford Recordings

One of the first projects this year was a set of choral works, recorded in St Peter’s College Chapel (my old college) in Oxford with Joe Davies and a fantastic bunch of singers. These three pieces, To Night, At Dawn, We Are Apart, and I Cannot Go, are some of my favourites that I’ve written, and getting to work with everyone closely was amazing. The chapel is a unique acoustic for this kind of music, and really makes these recordings special.

VOTE100: Distant Voices, Current Drifts

This was my first official commission, as part of Royal Holloway’s celebration of the centenary of the passage of partial suffrage in the UK. A Small, Intimate Gesture for solo viola is a very personal work for me, and having it played alongside other new pieces, including Nathan James Dearden’s amazing you ARE determined, was such an honour. If you want to know more about the piece, you can read about it here: https://sam-buttler.com/2018/03/16/about-a-small-intimate-gesture/

Etchings Festival 2018

I was nervous heading to my first festival, but it was so amazing I hope it’s not my last! Travelling to Auvillar by train was beautiful as it meant I got to see all of France go by and relax in a seat (with ample leg room)! This town was the perfect setting to work with the inspirational ECCE Ensemble, learn from other young composers, and attend seminars from Phillipe Hurel, Erin Gee, Martin Brody, and John Aylward. Solaris, my piece for flute and cello, had a rocky conception (one version of this piece was totally scrapped) but I couldn’t be happier with what I ended up with. I have to thank Roberta Michel and John Popham again for playing it so beautifully. Hope this isn’t my last!

Sam Buttler, BA MMus

If you’ve had told me this time two years ago that I’d have a Distinction in a master’s degree in Composition, I would not have believed you. But here I am! Hypatia, my final project, was a love letter to many things I love in music: oboes, large orchestras, the interaction of music and science, and a pinch for the dramatic. This confirmed for me that I want to compose, and so glad I didn’t give up!


Of all the pieces I’ve written this year, Triptych will always have a special place in my heart. A duo for flute and violin, written for my sister’s group Flö, about chemical processes (how very me!). I finally heard all of it in Cardiff in August, after an initial performance in Sweden, and it was a magical moment listening it in full. Since that Cardiff concert, Triptych has been played a few more times around the UK. Every time I revisit this piece, I find something new to love about it. Check it out again if you’ve missed it:

Looking Ahead

2018 was amazing, but I’m secretly hoping that 2019 will be even better, with some very exciting things on the horizon. Very soon, a new piece called Vortex will come out, played by Duo Kottos. Also, I’ve been working on two new pieces with Chameleon in Manchester; they are an absolute pleasure to work with, and it’s been so much fun to write for such a unique ensemble. In April, I will be attending the Ludlow English Song Weekend as one of the Emerging Composers, with a new piece for voice and piano. There’s also a great project with Chris Roberts, a fantastic guitarist and a very dear friend of mine.

So here’s to more music! Bring on 2019!

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